by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Homecoming at Grain Valley High School was this past weekend. After visiting the alumni tent, attending the game, and enjoying a great breakfast at the high school on Saturday, I could not help but think about previous homecomings.
The University of Missouri claims to have invented homecoming in 1911, when Director of Athletics Chester L. Brewer had the bright idea to invite alumni back to the annual game against the University of Kansas—he further sauced things up with a spirit rally and parade.
I don’t know when Grain Valley celebrated their first homecoming, but I did find photographs in some yearbooks from the 1940s.
The first homecoming I recall was in the fall of 1952 when I got to ride in the parade. I don’t remember which group sponsored the float but the slogan on the top read, “It’s in the cards!” (Victory). We wore the white uniforms from the first grade Rhythm Band. I was the Queen of Diamonds.
Of course, the marching band lead the homecoming parade right down Main Street. Virginia Ruth Tate (senior) was the drum major and Patsy Edie, a third grader, was the mascot.
There were only 31 members in the band including Virginia, Patsy and the three majorettes, Janice (Thompson) Butler, junior and Florene (Brown ) Wiggins and Sandra (Temple) Elliott, both 8th graders. In those days the 26 members of the band that played instrument included student from 7th grade through seniors.
The 1953 yearbook showed 91 students in the high school and 6 faculty members which included G. E. Temple, the superintendent and history teacher, and William Evans, the principal, history teacher and football coach.
I can recall many homecomings during my school years. Some of the most fun of homecoming was designing and building our floats during the week preceding the game. We would work in someone's garage or barn every day (and night) after school throughout the week before the parade.
We always had some boys from our class “on guard” so no one saw our float or stole our ideas before the floats were judged at the parade.
There were snake dances and bonfires when we burned a dummy representing a football player from the opposing team. Students would begin at the high school and dance and cheer their way down Main Street to the pep rally held at the city park in front of the old train station on Front Street. There were spirit weeks and pep rallies, there were ivy chains, and Homecoming Queens, and let us not forget, there were football games. And after the game, there was a homecoming dance.
I’ve always been amazed to talk to the football players years after their high school days were over. They always remember every game, every great tackle they made, and every pass they caught (or threw) that resulted in the winning touchdown. And they can tell you the team they played for homecoming their senior year and if they won (or lost)!
For most of us, high school homecomings will forever be a fond memory of our school days!
The Historical Society invites you to join us for Coffee with Classmates –the Rock ‘n Roll Years (1950-1970) on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 beginning at 10:00 AM.
We will reconnect, reminiscence, and share memorabilia from our days at GVHS, including the big Homecoming Game! I hope you will join us.
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